Monday, 8 May 2006

MdS Stage 2 - Draft for report

A bit rough but here it is..

Day 2. 10/4/06 Stage 2. 35km

I awoke to the sight of crapping athletes outside our tent. Our tent had instituted a “hygiene policy” which was a ruling that we must travel at least 10 paces away from the tent for “number 1” and 20 paces for “number 2”, this worked for us but it didn’t work so well for the residents of the other tents. Lets just say that bivouac life was not as easy to get used to if you had male genitals being shoved down your throat every day, to paraphrase the immortal Rex Mossop.

Last night it was hot. As they say in the bivouac camp “Ze ot nite, Ze ot day”. I tossed and turned all night, my sleeping bag was broiling me so I changed into a t shirt and running shorts during the night. Woke up and I still had most of my water allocation from last night's three bottle (4.5L) allocation, hadn’t pee’d all night so I knew that I was in for some fun.

The Berbers seemed to arrive so much earlier today. Breakfast consisted of a tray of Sakata rice crackers and a litre of water. I was feeling lethargic and was the last to get my pack ready. Got to the starting line just in time for the announcements. Apparently 6 competitors DNF’d yesterday, I decided that I would probably go slower today and try to walk the whole way.

We were away and we were heading in a NE direction (36°). We reached thr first hill after 800 metres and started to climb a steep, sandy passage up the Tibert Jebel. The thing about the Sahara is the limitless space but here we were on a hill in a total traffic jam, people everywhere. I had my walkman on but it died halfway up the hill because it had turned itself on in my bag overnight. Oh well I thought, at least I have another battery for tomorrow.

I checked my pulse and the HR monitor said 170. Ouch, and I’m only walking.

That first hill almost killed me, it was boiling hot and I was sweating profusely. You know the sort of sweat that comes with a fever or a cold; I was definitely not 100%, glad that I had decided to walk.

After 1.8km of climbing we got to the top of the jebel and could see the long straight section that led to CP1 (12km). In fact we knew that CP1 was 8.5km away and we knew that it was fairly flat. What we didn’t know was how much hotter it was going to get. For the next section up to CP1 we were treated with some of that rough stony ground where each step risks a twisted ankle or a blown knee. These are the sections where it really helps to have a good pair of trail shoes. Many competitors try to do this race in normal running shoes and they really suffer because of the stone bruising. Many of the French runners use racing flats and lose most of the skin on their feet. I think the great thing about speaking English or Fench is that the word for Stupid is the same.

I ran out of water 2km before CP1.

CP1 was crowded and everyone was trying to sit down in the shade. I decided to go straight through which was a bit of a mistake given that I was hurting. I really should have stopped for 5 min. The CP was on an exposed flat plain and the hot winds were blazing through.

After the CP we had a really hot 1.5km section prior to the dunes (15km elapsed) at this point everyone was suffering. Every now and then you’d see a flare go off like a firework. Then the chopper or a jeep would race past to rescue the withdrawn runner.

As I had decided to walk the whole stage I thought that the dunes might hurt more. In fact I found that I actually passed people in the dunes. I put it down to my shoes. My feet were still unblistered and I was having no problems walking.

I remember asking our intrepid host and agent, Jay Batchen, which day he thought was dune day was and he replied, every day this year. Sure enough day 2 had heaps of dunes. By my calculations about 8km of dunes.

CP2 (23km) was near a small settlement called Lahfira. I can’t remember what the time was. Time had stopped for me, it was hot and the sand storms had started. I was having those self talk moments, “what are you doing to yourself you idiot?”..

By this stage everyone was walking with full protection. Those who had full gaiters, like me, had them pulled up. Mouth, nose, eye and neck protection. It was blowing a gale.

At the 27km mark we still had 8km to go. The maps they gave us said 8km to go after the dunes but the whole race was so angry. It was easily 11km. Everyone ran out of water. Mine was gone with 3km to go.

I power walked the last section with an American from our group called David, he really sparked energy into my stage and effectively paced me in. I remember seeing one of the elite runners (number 6) walking with me for a while, this proved that no one can take this race for granted.

Every now and then David would give me a peppermint, which really cooled me down. This gave me the incentive to stay with him because I had hardly eaten all day, due to my Powerbars making me sick, yet again.

I got in late but amazingly my position hadn’t slipped too much. I guess walking the whole stage wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

The camp was solemn, and depressed. We were all thinking the same thing. “Fuck! If those were the two easiest stages, how am I going to make it through the hard stages. Welcome the MdS, you wanted to test yourself, so now figure out how to get to the end.”

The news that 60 or so competitors dropped out in stage 2 spread through the bivouac fairly quickly. Apparently Mohamad Ahansel (race # 2) had collapsed on the line and complained that the last section was too long and there wasn’t enough water. “If I can’t handle it how are the fat ones that take twice as long going to manage it?” Apparently he had to take an IV drip.

Another stage two casualty was Jack Osborne (son of Ozzy).

No one in the bivouac thought any less of Jack for pulling the pin in stage 2. I guess at some point in stage 2 everyone wanted to stop. After all Jack was in good company, 59 other competitors including some elite runners didn't make it through stage 2.

At 8:30pm that night the organisers decided to give out another 1.5L bottle of water. Apparently the race doctor (affectionately known as Doc Trotter) threatened to stop the event unless we were given more water.

I think I went to bed feeling terrible. I was dehydrated but couldn't drink, hungry and couldn't eat, tired but lay awake for hours wondering if tomorrow would be as tough as the last two stages.

A quote from race director Patrick Bauer

“This could be the most difficult start to MDS ever. The competitors were given a rough ride yesterday and today has proved no different. The problem remains the same: the combination of high hygrometry levels and high temperatures mean some competitors are over-heating.”


At 9 May 2006 at 2:44 am, Blogger Adam Stritzel said...

Hey Brendan -

The report is shaping up well. Very enjoyable to read.

You must've been camped next to some real pigs; I don't remember any human-waste issues near the tents in 2005 (though conditions at the "official" pit toilet was a different story).

Keep 'em coming ...
- Adam

At 9 May 2006 at 11:43 am, Blogger 2P said...

I'm amazed Jack made it as far as he did....

The bit about the flares going off really painted a picture in the mind.

Great report Brendan - keep em coming.

At 15 May 2006 at 8:37 am, Anonymous Whale Boy said...


Great reads - eagerly awaiting the next installements. I'm not sure if the details inspire fear, awe or desire - most certainly respect! Did they have power generators for recharging your HRM or did you have to ration the use of your garmin to periodic reads?


Whaley Boy


Post a Comment

<< Home